Well, my writing is starting to stall out, get stale. I turn on my computer and read an article
about Coursera. I surf over and peruse
the offerings. There are dozens of
schools with hundreds of courses, even humanities. Then, there it is, as obvious as a dozen shirtless construction
workers on lunch break, resplendent in their yellow hard hats-Modern and
Contemporary Poetry. I leave, I come
I enroll and then I wait.
The class has no professor, it is led by Al Filreis, an apostle channeling the gods
of modern poetry. He speaks Emily, he
speaks Walt, he speaks Stein, and some of us even understand his Stein.
Questions are asked.
I learn where to find the answers to the questions. I leave, I come back. I learn where to find the questions. Thirty odd thousand students all over the
world learn where to find the questions.
I drink a couple of beers, I get excited. We come to the poets I grew up with but we
don’t stop. We come to the poets who
are writing now, but we don’t stop. We
come to the point where my experience ends,
But we keep going.
The apostle is talking about non-authorship, about random operations and
chance and I’m thinking we must be in a casino. But we’re not in a casino, we are each in our own homes, in front
of our own computers. We meet in real
time on line, in message forums, in Google hangouts. Some of us meet face to face in Meet Ups. And then
It’s over. The
notification e-mails slow to a trickle.
The Facebook group starts to slack off.
Students go into withdrawal. The
Apostle goes home for Thanksgiving. I
am also thankful. My writing is no
longer stalled, no longer stale. I have
new friends from around the globe.
And thirty odd thousand people are now reading poetry with
new vision, in only ten weeks.
If it’s sounds too good to be true, well, sometimes it
really is that good.
I've recently had the privilege of publication in Durable Goods, a strange print edition that gets sent to your actual mailbox. Yup, paper. Damn! OK, you should visit the site, subscribe, and then, go stand by your mailbox and wait. You'll get a new, pocket sized issue every two weeks. The cost of subscription is just the postage.
Figurative language, simile or metaphor for instance, often becomes a beginner’s roadblock to enjoying poetry. Perhaps you understand the concept of a simile, saying one thing is like something else, such as, “My love is like a red, red rose.” But maybe you aren’t quite sure how love, an abstract concept most easily viewed through the actions people take, can be like a physical object, the rose.
It seems that figurative language is often used to compare two disparate things. What you need is a bit of the mathematician’s logic here, a way to find a common denominator. We know that love isn’t red, that it isn’t physical and so it can’t share any of the rose’s physical attributes. Or can it? What is there about the rose that differentiates it from other flowers? Why didn’t Burns write about carnations? Might it be the rose’s thorns? Could love have virtual thorns, something that hurts us in spite of its beauty?
There may be many other explanations, but coming up with a theory and showing the logic for your conclusion is always going to lend weight to your hypothesis.
What about another device of figurative language, the symbol. Art has always been laden with symbols. Some are well known. Ravens are thought to be omens of death. Dogs are considered to indicate fidelity or loyalty. Although there are often clues, it is sometimes up to the reader to decide what things stand for. The important starting point is to realize that you can’t take everything within a poem at its face value; you have to search out what might be symbolic objects.
Poetry is one aspect of creative writing, and it has been said that creative writing requires creative reading. To appreciate poetry, you can’t be a mere spectator, you must wade in up to your knees, accept the passed baton, and then my friend...run with it.